TEDx: Ideas Worth Spreading On Cannabis


The internet has many things, but search for an official TED talk on cannabis and it will come up short. TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) conferences provide powerful thought leadership on diverse topics of “ideas worth spreading,” but you’ll have to dig a little deeper to find some of those ideas about our favorite plant.

TEDx is a sub-program that the non-profit designed to allow communities all over the globe to organize events to give speakers a local stage for sharing ideas in the TED style setting. TEDx events are fertile ground for breaking stereotypes about marijuana and the diversity of its consumers and uses. Here are five highly shareable talks with strong messages on changing the discussion around cannabis.

The Surprising Story of Medical Marijuana and Pediatric Epilepsy
Josh Stanley, TEDxBoulder

Be prepared for soft pulling at your heartstrings as you watch this video. Josh Stanley and his brothers are cannabis growers who were developing medical strains for patients when they were approached by parents of an extremely epileptic child. The family had hit a dead end in treatment options. The brothers worked on behalf of this young family to take a high-CBD, extremely low-THC strain and extract a tincture to help treat the suffering five-year-old. Their story serves as an emotional tale about why it’s so important that federal laws should adjust to accommodate medical users.

Beyond the Marijuana Monster Myths
David Schmader, TEDxRainier

Davis Schmader is a playwright and now author of the book, “Weed: The User’s Guide.” Schmader’s wit and way with words come across entertainingly in his important talk that addresses the similarities between coming out as a marijuana user and coming out as a gay man. Schmader is able to succinctly put into words the feelings that many of us experience as we let a new person into this side of our lives, and how important it is for mainstream society to see the diversity and normalcy in any given cross-section of cannabis users. He nails the importance of more people going public about their use. “Leaving such exceptional outliers to do the heavy lifting of representation not only skews perception; it allows damaging lies to flourish.”

Drug Smuggler Speaks Out About Incarceration and Marijuana
Richard Stratton, TEDxFultonStreet

Richard Stratton used to illegally bring marijuana into the United States and served multiple sentences for it. During his time in prison, he educated himself on the justice system and through appeals, was able to serve less time. Through his experience, he became an expert thought leader on prisons and has advised on prison-themed series on HBO and Showtime, and produced documentaries about prison life. He realized during his time that most people who were incarcerated for infractions related to marijuana didn’t have the education to stick up for themselves like he could. His talk sheds light on the harsh realities of the justice system and unfairly targeted minority demographics of inmates.

Mainstream to Marijuana
Pete Kadens, TEDxBucknellUniversity

This talk continues the concept that socioeconomically challenged citizens in non-legal states are at a major risk for extended incarceration. Pete Kadens is a business leader in the medical marijuana industry who does philanthropic work with homeless. He tells the story of a friend who suffered the repercussions of one nonviolent infraction related to marijuana which had a devastating ripple effect on all his future job prospects. Kadens explains that the failure of the “War on Drugs” has only served to crush the American Dream for minorities and create an “underclass” of people who can never recover, never pull themselves up by their bootstraps to overcome their past. He passionately argues that illegality of marijuana becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, creating more crime and harm than preventing it.

Prohibition and Legalization
Danica Noble, TEDxKamuela

Danica Noble is a cannabis activist and attorney who works with National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, (NORML). She opens her talk with a sensitive story of a mother who was separated from her children when authorities raided her home over marijuana. Noble’s emotional connection as a mother effectively communicates the concerns and harms of a prohibition on communities. Her view in this talk is somewhat unique in this space; she isn’t a user herself. Her voice is a powerful one in the argument against marijuana prohibition, demonstrating that with open minds, it can be easy for professional, family-oriented people who are contributing members of society to logically be in favor of legalization.

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